Public access to licensed journals held in academic libraries

Added by Stephane Goldstein on 05 April 2006 14:42

The RIN was asked to take on an issue that was raised in the July 2004 report Scientific Publications Free for All from the House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology, with regard to providing to members of the public access to the digital copies of journal articles that are licensed to academic libraries. The Government’s response to that Report said that the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) would assemble an expert group to advise on how this could best be achieved, on the problems to be solved and how they could best be overcome. That task was passed on to the RIN.

From initial discussions, it was clear that the provision of walk-in access is patchy and that there are a number of organisational and technical issues that need to be addressed if it is to be delivered successfully. In order to get a firmer understanding of what the issues are, of the problems that arise, and of how they might most successfully be addressed, the RIN initiated a dialogue in early 2006 aimed at advising on how to improve the provision of such public access.  Key partners in this dialogue include the Higher Education library community, along with the JISC and those responsible for the Inspire programme.

An expert group was then assembled in order to publish a report on current practice, key issues to be overcome, and recommendations for the future. The report was completed in August 2006, and is available to download below. The report notes three key issues to be addressed, and practical advice on how they can be overcome.

The Licence agreements with publishers and aggregators are often complex and unclear. A UK register of licences, noting in particular the terms and conditions for walk-in access, should be created as a matter of urgency. Negotiations with the relevant bodies should be undertaken in order to create a common form of words to cover either the provision or denial of walk-in access.

There are adminstrative and technical issues that follow from providing access to the public through secure university networks. These should be noted by both the current JISC/SCONUL/UCISA project on electronic access to HE members away from their home HEI, and a new programme to be initiated in association with the shift to Federated Access Management technology.

Although Libraries already face pressures from staff and students of their own and other HEI institutions, it is in the interest of society that resources should be devoted to the development of public access. Continued funding to the Inspire programme from DfES and DCMS will faciltate this mission throughout the UK.

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